I recently had the pleasure of discussing digital communities, visual marketing missteps and social creativity with Ashley Jones, Digital Media and Visual Branding Designer for the Australia-based retailer Koskela. When asked to describe the brand’s social strategy, she offered the following in return: inspiring, community, joyful.
Koskela joined Instagram during the summer of 2012 to communicate these ideals in a visual manner. The decision was driven by change, and the result has been nothing short of impressive. “The business had just relocated into a large warehouse showroom that had so much natural light, room for large displays and great textures,” Ashley explains. “Think sandblasted brick, sawtooth roof, exposed red pipes and lots of old textures and details on the concrete from when it was a canning factory.”
Aesthetically, Koskela’s new space provided the perfect backdrop through which to highlight the brand’s bold products and bright designs. “Instagram content was everywhere for the taking – and posting,” Ashley adds. And that’s exactly what she and her team have done.
Koskela’s visual marketing strategy spans well beyond the walls of their warehouse too, including photos of the brand’s workshop, gallery and team. “With so much to get across to our followers,” she says, “images keep it interesting and make it really clear to understand who we are as a brand. We have a big audience to communicate these values to.”
In the following Q&A, Ashley describes Koskela’s approach to Instagram—what’s worked, what hasn’t—and describes how you can get more out of your social strategy, too.
What’s the inspiration behind your content strategy?
Find inspiration everywhere
We find inspiration from the natural beauty of our giant space; from our suppliers’ own Instagram feeds (who knows how to shoot their product better than them?); from our merchandising displays; from Pinterest; from paying attention to what our customers are taking photos of organically; and from the themes that are trending on Instagram.
Focus on Core business objectives
While we want our images to look and feel inspired and “in the moment,” a large part of our content is carefully chosen to support our revenue goals. To achieve this, we use Instagram to reiterate our core business values, to encourage participation and to target areas of our retail business that may be in need of some extra love.
Identify Buzz-worthy themes
We also use Instagram to identify which items or topics are super hot – as well as those that are dragging behind. For instance, we might leverage organic buzz around a product or event, or try to create new (or renewed) excitement around a product or collection. By coupling fresh imagery with new merchandise, we can ultimately optimize the impact of Instagram.
What’s the key to growing your Instagram community?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned having managed our account from Day 1:
Don’t make up a zillion hashtags for your brand
Stick to the ones people are already using, and don’t overdo it. (Curalate recently conducted a study to determine the optimal number of hashtags for brands on Instagram. The sweet spot? Two.)
Don’t post too often
We typically post once a day. We want people to like our content and look forward to it without getting tired of seeing our images in their feed. It’s a balancing act.
You don’t want to lose the followers you gain by overwhelming them with content.
Don’t be too professional
Your posts should have personality. Develop a language and persona for your brand, and stick to it. Share details and stories that feel real. For example, we recently posted an image of a lawn game that we sell and mentioned (via the caption) that our own staff keeps a set on hand too – perfect for summer in the park. We sold seven sets that afternoon! People love that kind of insider info.
Don’t overshare. But do be personal!
Don’t share information that’s so personal it leaves people feeling left out. Imagine your posts as real scenarios. There’s value in acknowledging that there’s a real person managing your account, but keep the content focused on the product.
Do be social
Try to comment back on every post that has something to do with your brand. Curalate makes this easy! Even a “Great snap!” or a “Thanks for visiting” can be a nice gesture. Of course, the more you treat people like friends, the more positive their responses will be in return.
I also like to “use the language of our community” when crafting copy for our posts. One of Koskela’s core values is, “Be a relationship builder.” On Instagram, I put this into practice. Rather than preaching about our business, we make it about our customers. You can, too.
How often do you share content with your Instagram community?
We stick to a once-a-day standard, increasing around busier seasons like Christmas. We don’t want to badger our followers. We also want to keep our content really potent. By keeping a “light” schedule (by some standards), this eliminates content that doesn’t contribute to our larger goals.
What are the top lessons you’ve learned since joining Instagram?
Don’t wander around looking for a photo to share 10 minutes before you want your post to go live. Our retail team looks up to four weeks for deliveries of new stock. We use this timeframe to plan a display – and then our Instagram shot. This also gives us time to look for users who may have already posted great content.
If we decide to photograph it ourselves though, we take the time to shoot on a nice camera, to edit in Photoshop and to write a thoughtful caption.
Don’t overcomplicate campaigns
It’s a waste of energy. It has to be dead simple, and the prize has to be desirable. For ideas, look for other brands that are running competitions and ask yourself whether you would enter. Take notes!
Be consistent and attentive
Instagram was invented to be an “instant” platform, so make an effort to participate in real time. We like to leave comments that have personality.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a brand that’s looking to maximize their social impact, what would it be?
Get other people in your company to help you keep a finger on the pulse of social. Social media is rife with consumers and content, and it can be hard—especially in the beginning—to make sure you’re catching all the good stuff and following the best people. By having others help you keep a lookout for influencers, competitors, engaged users, etc., as well as any other users who post content that’s relevant to your brand, you can identify the right conversations.
Social media is a lot like dating. The more you pursue it, the more you get back.
So, go forth and engage. Talk to your fans! People love when brands leave comments. In response, they’ll be more likely to check out your page, follow your brand, and if you’re strategic enough, convert.